Ruidoso Hall of Fame

Ruidoso Hall of Fame

Six inductees will be honored on June 29.

horses breaking from gate at Ruidoso Downs horse race (Credit: AQHA/Dan Dry)

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Ruidoso Downs Racetrack will induct five individuals and one race horse into the its  Ruidoso Downs Race Track Hall of Fame this summer. The annual induction ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, June 29.

Following are the 2023 inductees:

See Me Do It, the 1989 AQHA World Champion, is this year’s horse inductee. Owned and bred by the late Jean Dillard, See Me Do It won 17 races from 24 starts and earned of $913,464.

In 1988, See Me Do It won the Oklahoma Spring Futurity at Blue Ribbon Downs and ran second in the All American Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs. The filly won all six of her races during her 3-year-old season, including the Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos, and the All American (G1) and Rainbow (G1) derbies at Ruidoso Downs. 

At 4, See Me Do It ended her career with victories in the All American Gold Cup and World’s Championship Classic at Ruidoso Downs.

See Me Do It was trained in Oklahoma and at Ruidoso Downs by Bobby Turner. In California, she was conditioned by Blane Schvaneveldt. Larry Layton was her jockey.

The Urschel family is known as one of the most successful owners and breeders in Quarter Horse racing history.

In 1973, the Urschel family won its first of an unprecedented four Rainbow Futurities with its homebred mare Flying Rockette, campaigned by Mary Urschel, Dan’s mother. Dan’s father Lester passed away shortly after that, and they took a short break from racing before re-entering the industry in 1978, when they purchased a six-figure yearling filly named Easy Dimple at the All-American Yearling Sale.

The family’s success on the race track continued in 1979 when Pie In The Sky won the All American Futurity. The following season, the family won the 1980 Rainbow Futurity and finished second in the All American Futurity with Mighty Deck Three.

In 1981, Dan and Jolene paid the highest price in history, $1 million, for a two-year-old quarter horse named Special Effort.  A son of Raise Your Glass (TB), Special Effort posted the fastest qualifying time in trials of the Kansas Futurity (now called the Ruidoso Futurity). Special Effort would go on to win the Kansas Futurity, the Rainbow Futurity and the All American Futurity, and he remains the only race horse to ever win the Triple Crown series. The young stallion had been syndicated for $15 million prior to winning the All-American Futurity, and he became one of the industry’s leading sires and broodmare sires.

During a three-year span, from 1979-82, the Urschel family won the Kansas Futurity twice, Rainbow Futurity twice, the All American Futurity twice, and the Kansas Derby once. They also won the first running of the Heritage Place Futurity in 1981 with Jumbo Pacific.

The Urschels also bred leading AQHA sire Strawfly Special, and they were partners in the ownership of Leading Spirit, who won the 2005 Ruidoso and Rainbow Futurities. Mary Urschel campaigned many winners at Ruidoso Downs including Hall of Fame inductee Master Salls.

In 1998, Mary passed away followed by Dan in 2014. Dan’s wife Jolene continues to be involved in the racing industry along with their son Ken Urschel and daughter Dana Pinkston, all of Canadian, Texas.

Joe A. Martinez was one of the top jockeys in the southwest during his three-decade career. He was at the height of his career in 1990, when he won a track-record 103 races during one season at Ruidoso Downs.

Martinez’s most notable mounts include See Me Gone, winner of the 1991 Rainbow and All American Derby and Royal Down Dash, winner of the 1993 All American Derby and Sunland Park Fall Derby and 1994 New Mexico Challenge Championship. He also won the 2000 West Texas Futurity at Sunland Park with AQHA champion Stoli.

A rider of both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, Martinez won more than 4,000 races, and his mounts accumulated purse earnings of $36.5 million. He won more than 140 stakes races, including the All-American Derby twice, Rainbow Derby twice, Rainbow Futurity, Texas Classic Derby, and Riley Allison Futurity.

If there is a trainer known for stamina and longevity, it would be Paul A. Smith, who continues to train race horses in a career that dates back nearly 70 years.

Smith first came to New Mexico training race horses in the 1950s. Some of his earliest horses who helped him establish his career include the famous match race horse Painted Joe Jr., the 2-furlong world record holder Red Jones, influential quarter horse sire Otoe, and foundation broodmares Miss Breeze Bar and Three’s Gal. Perhaps Smith’s most recognized stakes winner was Fast Gas, who in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s won 18 stakes throughout New Mexico, including five at Ruidoso Downs.

Horses trained by Smith have won more than 1,500 races from more than 14,000 starts and have amassed purse earnings of more than $8,200,000.

Recently retired after a long stint as Ruidoso Downs Race Track outrider, Mitch Mitchell was raised in South Dakota as part of a large ranching family. He began riding races while in high school at local race tracks Fort Pierre and Park Jefferson until he became physically too heavy. He began working at various race tracks across the country as a gallop boy, assistant trainer and other track-related positions.

By the mid-1980s Mitch came to Ruidoso Downs and worked on the track’s gate crew for 15 years. Then, after sustaining an injury, he switched jobs to become the track’s outrider, a position he held for 20 years until his retirement in 2021. 

The phrase “never met a stranger” describes Mitch perfectly. As head outrider, he took very seriously the responsibility for the safety of both jockey and racehorse. He also enjoyed sitting in the saddle next to the rail in-between races to let race fans get an up-close look at his mount.

Scott Wells has spent his lifetime in the horse racing industry after getting a fast head start. As a child in 1960, he  accompanied his father, Ted Wells, to Ruidoso Downs, and in a few short years they would win the 1965 All-American Futurity with Savannah Jr.

Striking out on his own in the early seventies, he worked as assistant trainer to racing legends D. Wayne Lukas, Jack Van Berg and Richard Hazelton. Wells eventually became a licensed Thoroughbred trainer. In 1990, Wells changed his career path and began working in race track management. First employed by Remington Park, he soon accepted a position as assistant general manager at Hollywood Park. That was followed by a general manager position at Ruidoso Downs, followed by race track management positions in Mexico City and Uruguay.

In 2004, Wells assumed the role of general manager at Remington Park; shortly thereafter, he accepted the same post at Lone Star Park. He held both positions until his retirement at the end of 2021.

When time allowed during his busy career, Wells authored many personal stories and poems about horse racing. He began publishing stories in what became Speedhorse Magazine in the 1970s. In 1982, he collaborated with Speedhorse in the publication of The Nicodemus Era. From 1990-92, Wells wrote more than 100 columns for Daily Racing Form. In 1996, Wells published What A Way To Go, an early history of Los Alamitos Racecourse. In 2010, Wells published a novel, Teaching Narcissus to Swim, which is set in Ruidoso Downs.

The annual banquet to honor the Hall of Fame inductees will be held at Alto Lakes Country Club on Thursday, June 29, at 6 p.m. Tickets to the banquet will be available from the Ruidoso Downs Box office at (575) 378-4140.

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